Growing up there were only two options for gender. I had the parts for a boy, so I was sorted into that category. My identity did not match my birth gender so obviously I didn’t in. Actually I stuck out as sore thumb.I would always tell people that inside I felt like a woman. Looking back I always thought it was because I was a gay boy. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I never really fit into the gay community either.
I tried hard to fit in and it always made me feel horrible. I was constantly judged for my size. To most gay men a fat person is a leper. When I found the bear community I thought at least I found the place to fit in and I couldn’t be more wrong. Toxic masculinity is rampant in the bear world where everything is hypersexualized. Where the bears are real men. No fats or fems allowed. I suppress my femininity for a long while, especially around those in the bear community. I hid behind this masculine facade. It was all an illusion. I fit the type. I was a big, hairy and bearded. My outside didn’t match my insides. I felt less because I was comparing myself to others. I didn’t have another example to go by.
The toxic masculinity ran so deep that I was oblivious to it for a very long time. I first started to chip away at that during 2010 when I performed in drag. When I looked in the mirror for the first time I was amazed. I felt like I was looking at myself for the first. It was the first time I felt beautiful. I was totally fabulous, all dolled up. My outside finally matched who I was inside. These feelings quickly subsided as my life didn’t warrant embracing that side of me. I didn’t have a word for it, nor did I know what I meant. I was in an abusive relationship at the time and that took priority having to deal with the aftermath of moving out of state away from him. I did what I have done in the past and went back into hiding. It became just another memory of my past.
After a while I gave up trying to be that person everyone wanted me to be. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had pretended to be someone else for too long and I was fed up. So I embraced my fabulousness and my femininity. Without thinking what it meant I started to identify as queer a few years ago. Even with that I didn’t realize it went deeper than the label of describing my sexual orientation, that it was related to my gender. Like I said for the longest time I didn’t have anyone to compare myself too that was like me.
That was until the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I started to notice the queens who embraced that side of them. They didn’t try to wrap themselves up in that mold. They just lived freely and were no holds barred fabulous! Queens like Jinkx Monsoon who didn’t try to be anyone but themselves. Jinkx after her time on RPDR would come out to be non-binary. Even then I didn’t connect it to my gender. I didn’t realize I was looking at myself.
It wasn’t until recently when I started to work on my comic book Dragzilla that I started to open up. Slowly the layers started to peel away. I had always had some sort of facial hair. I haven’t been clean shaven since my early twenties. I didn’t realize that I was hiding behind my beard. It was until last year that I realized that I didn’t even like my beard. I started to embrace Dragzilla and the lines between fiction and real life started to blur. Dragzilla is the story of fierce drag queen superhero who stands up against hate crimes while her alter ego is shy and insecure. I realized that I was telling my story. Dragzilla is who I am. Who I am becoming.
It took me a while to see the writing on the wall or in this case the pages of the comic. I remember going into therapy with a word that I was struggling with. I was scared to say Transgender. Was I transgender? That was the only other option that I saw. If my body didn’t match my insides then it was natural to question it. I had very little to go by and what I did see was Transgender people. I was really confused for a while and I still am a bit. It took a few months then it dawned on me that there was a fourth option. It was then I realized that my queerness related to my gender, that I was genderqueer/non-binary. It was a huge revelation. No wonder I hated myself for most of my life. I have never felt like I could be myself. I had always felt like I was a freak who never fit in anywhere.
I remember Courtney Act (a fierce, fish of a queen) talk about gender being a spectrum and I really related to that. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how true that was. I’ve started growing out my hair, which is also new for me. A few weeks ago I had went to the grocery store and put my hair up. I don’t think I have ever felt that free. It was an amazing feeling. I wish that it lasted. While I have this new discovery I have forty years of falsehoods to shake free. I wish it were just as easy as transforming myself like a butterfly from a cocoon but unfortunately live doesn’t work that way. The transformation is much more gradual.
Today in therapy I talked about how I felt the old me was holding me back. I had recently decided to change my name to Drew. At first it felt great when I changed my name on Facebook but very quickly I started to feel less because I started to think about what others would think. That’s the problem. I care too much what others think of me. I hate it. That’s something I really wish I could let go of. I have come a long ways but I still have ways to go. I use to let it stop me from doing what I wanted. Now I say fuck it and do it anyways but deep down inside I’m afraid of being judged. It’s not just my gender that I do this. I live in fear. I’m disabled and on food stamps. I hate when I have to use my card. I try to hide it the best I can because it’s always my fear that someone will confront me as I look like an abled-bodied person. This is just one example.
I’ve had a bit of buyers remorse which isn’t nothing new. I have done that most of my life. The closer I was to who I was inside the more I tried to fight it. I have mastered self destruction. The difference now is that I’m in therapy and have a therapist I love. I’m able to process it deeply and look at it in a different way. I feel a bit of tug and war. My old self is trying hard to pull the new me under. The stronger I get the harder it becomes. I have days I feel like I can embrace Drew and then there are days Derek takes hold of me. I haved lived 41 years falsely as a man and that caused a lot of damage. It’s created a lot of baggage that I must dust off, pick up and throw away. One piece of luggage at a time. The days will pass when I have more days where I embrace non-binary than not. The key is to not beat myself up, which I do a lot. To be easy with myself. To expect that there will be days where the process is messy and difficult. I wish it were just as easy as putting on a wig and makeup. While that’s a start I have to work from the inside out if this will ever stick.
It starts slowly like a ripple in the water. I want to buy a safety razor so I can start shaving regularly. That will be a big step as having a beard isn’t me. I’m starting of think of new ways of embracing all parts of me. I’m learning to be comfortable with who I really am and part of that is expressing myself on the exterior. I’m excited about growing my hair out to the point of frustration because it’s taking to long to grow out. Hopefully the exterior and interior will be welded together. As I get more comfortable inside it’s easier for me to embrace it to the world. I had the thought today as I was leaving the grocery store about what would happen if I wore a dress. I went right to fear of someone saying something nasty to me. I just need to let that go. If someone has the nerve to come up to me with judgments expect to be knocked to the ground. I just need to embrace the strength of Dragzilla. Just live my life as I want and not care what anyone else thinks. So what if someone judges me, they will do it regardless. As RuPaul says, it’s not my business. I don’t have time for them. I’m too busy being fabulous.
I just need to enjoy the ride. I hope that everything fades away and I can start loving myself. I’m inpatient. I want to attach my cocoon to a stick and whip it all around. The butterfly will never emerge that way. The metamorphosis is gradual and natural. All in due time. The transformation is a journey and a process. Eventually I will fully shed my male skin and it will just be another memory in the past.